As two graduating seniors, we recently sat down with Renee Diaz, owner of The Queen’s Cups bakery in Worcester to talk about Worcester State, baking, and the uncertainty of “what comes next?” after graduation.
By Rachael Berthiaume and Nicole O’Connell
“I’ve probably made a million cupcakes in my life, but sometimes my vision does not come out how I want.”
Renee Diaz graduated from Worcester State with a bachelor’s in psychology in 2012, but her career path did not end up following her original plan. After graduating from college, Diaz opened up a bakery, The Queen’s Cups, and hasn’t looked back since.
“I was [baking] for fun, and when I was a senior in college, I didn’t have a job lined up,” Diaz said. “My mom was like, ‘why don’t you open up a bakery?’ So I did.”
Another triumph for Diaz is she is the commencement speaker for Worcester State University’s 2019 graduation, taking place on May 18 at 10 a.m.
“They called me a couple of months ago during the winter and asked if I would be interested and I said ‘of course!’” Diax exclaimed. “I thought it was kind of crazy like, ‘what am I going to say to all these students?’ But I do have a lot to say.”
These past few years have been full of accomplishments for Diaz, including being recently awarded the 2019 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Massachusetts from the Small Business Association, but Diaz believes that speaking at commencement is one of the most rewarding yet.
“I think it’s going to be one of the biggest days of my life so I’m really appreciative and scared,” Diaz said. “It’s kind of consumed my life. I want it to come across in a certain way and I hope I can keep it together.”
Diaz is looking forward to the speech and hopes she gets to talk to students after the ceremony. So far, only a few people have heard the speech including some seniors from Worcester State and a few other trusted friends.
“It’s more about being a good person than telling you to follow your dreams,” Diaz said. “Because there’s people in life who are always going to be fine working 9 to 5, and some people will want to work 90 hours a week because that’s just how they are, so I’m trying to talk to everyone.”
Diaz hopes the soon-to-be graduates will find her speech relatable.
“I remember being like you guys and feeling so lost and then all of a sudden I was running this business and I had no idea what I was doing. My whole life I thought I was going to be a teacher and that changed,” she said.
“I just think no matter what you do, you can always be a nice person. You can always be understanding of other people,” Diaz continued. “I’ve sacrificed so much working here and having my own business, and the people that work for me have sacrificed too. I’ve missed out on things in life, but if I wasn’t a nice person it would have been way worse.”
Those sacrifices have paid off, resulting in a highly-successful business and droves of loyal customers.
Still, Diaz keeps busy. Along with owning The Queen’s Cups, and preparing for the commencement speech, she writes a monthly advice column for the Worcester Business Journal, will soon be moving into a new house, and has plans to expand her business.
Despite the hecticness, Diaz enjoys what she does.
“I’ve had to tell myself, you can’t do everything. So, I’ve started to say no to things,” Diaz said. “I’m really focusing on having a life and only saying yes to things I love doing.”
And Diaz loves that she gets to be speaking to students at her alma mater. Many of her customers are from Worcester State and she’s glad to strengthen the connection.
“Worcester State is so great to me,” Diaz said. “They order a lot of stuff for birthday brunches or for any event and everyone has just been so great there.”
When asked how she would design a cupcake using WSU school colors, Diaz replied with almost no hesitation, “A blueberry cupcake with lemon and raspberry inside and then a blueberry frosting with lemon on top and then I would put gold glitter, gold pearls and a fresh lemon and some blueberries on top. Or you could do a fun one that’s marbled. So, I’d do a vanilla cupcake and then we’d make a glaze and mix the two colors together and dip it and then do a blue and gold mixed frosting with some pearls and glitter.”
While this clearly-defined, on-the-spot cupcake design seemed no sweat, Diaz wants graduates to know that not everything comes so easily.
“My thing is all about the struggle and knowing what it was like when I was your age. I figured it out and I’ve had some bumps along the road, but I’m a happy person. Life takes you where you are supposed to go and there’s just some hard times in the middle.”
The first thing Diaz is planning to do after the big speech is “breathe.” Then, she wants to go out and celebrate, something the graduating class of 2019 will definitely find relatable.